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Your Consumer Fraud Rights – How Not to Become a Victim of Auto Sales Fraud

Preventing Auto Sales Fraud and Other Consumer Fraud

Consumers today face a daunting challenge when buying products or services, including trying to prevent becoming a victim of auto sales fraud. The “great deal” you just bargained for may not be what the seller promised, and your agreement to “sign on the dotted line” may have been coerced by false pretenses. Fortunately, you may not be obligated under the contract if you signed because of auto dealer fraud including misrepresentation or concealment.

All states have “common laws” that prevent unscrupulous businesses from capitalizing on deals that are the product of fraud. Most often, common law fraud requires a representation the seller knew or should have known was false, your reliance on the representation, and your subsequent injury. Many states have formalized common law fraud by enacting statutes which make proving fraud even easier. These “little FTC acts” often relax the elements of common law fraud and minimize your duty to investigate by imposing a “least sophisticated consumer” standard.

The standard measure of damages for fraud is rescission – the ability to void the deal. Sometimes, you may be entitled to cash compensation as well, and in many cases, punitive damages can be awarded against the business and to you to discourage such deceptive behavior in the future. Additionally, successful consumers may often recover their attorney fees and court costs.

Tips to Protect Yourself From Being a Victim of Auto Dealer Fraud

There are several ways to protect against being the victim of consumer fraud. One way is to always get all promises in writing. If the seller has promised something verbally that isn’t in the contract, ask him to put it there as written promises are easier to enforce than those made verbally. Plainly, the seller should be willing to put in writing anything he promised – if he won’t, you may be better off doing business with someone who will. Likewise, there are many ways to investigate the company you are considering doing business with before you enter into the contract. State attorney generals often keep lists of consumer complaints against local companies as does your local Better Business Bureau. Although these sources are often very helpful, they are not always complete, so the mere fact a business doesn’t show up on any such lists does not necessarily mean you are safe.

The prior history of a used car is also often easy to investigate. Internet research engines like CarFax or Autocheck generally provide a simple way to probe a vehicle’s past history. You may also contact your local motor vehicle division to acquire a “title history” which often reveals a vehicle’s travels across state lines in an effort to “wash away” an unclean history. The most common red flags to look for when researching a vehicle’s past history include where the vehicle was previously repurchased by the manufacturer (known as a “Lemon Law buyback”), where it was involved in an accident prior to your purchase, where the vehicle was previously used as a rental car, and where the vehicle’s odometer was altered. Although none of these research tools are infallible, your chances of avoiding becoming the victim of consumer fraud are greatly increased by taking simple measures such as these.

Do you suspect your vehicle was a “flood vehicle” sold to you after water damage by hurricanes Katrina, Rita or Wilma? Visit the National Insurance Crime Bureau flood vehicles database and enter the VIN (vehicle identification number) of your vehicle or HIN (hull identification number) of your boat to check. If you discover your vehicle was flood damaged, locate an attorney in your state for legal help.

What to do Now
You didn’t get the benefit of your bargain, so now its time to protect your rights and interests. Apathy and inaction is the exact situation that all unscrupulous sellers seek from consumers, and this Website believes pursuing the damages applicable laws make available helps not only yourself, but other consumers as well by showing big corporations they will be held responsible for not honoring their promises. If you think you are the victim of consumer fraud, click here to locate a lawyer in your State that can help.

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  1. We bought a truck from an individual/X salesman. The hood on the truck was not on correctly so the seller said that he would pay for it to be adjusted. We bought the truck and signed the title and decided we would just pay for it to be fixed since we were an hour away from the seller. Instead of taking it back to him because we didn’t think it would cost much. When the body shop guy looked at it, he said he can’t adjust the hood without putting new headlights and a new Grille in because it has been wrecked. Needless to say the seller never told us it was wrecked. I feel like since he said he would pay for the hood to be adjusted correctly he should pay for everything else that needs to be fixed and able to correct the hood. I have called him and text him several times and he told me he would only pay for the hood to be adjusted that he did not know it was wrecked. Needless to say that’s hard for me to believe because he said he is on the truck for a little over a year and it’s not even drivable at night time because of the headlights. What can I do about this matter?

  2. Crystal Suullivan

    I bought a car for 3000.00 and it won’t pass emissions to repair it they said it would cost 2900.00 to repair what can I do?

  3. I purchased a 2003 Audi A4 Cabriolet Convertible 3.0 18 months ago, putting 10,000 miles on it. I am now told that the transmission CVT front wheel drive has been involved in a Class Action Suit and Audi is going to settle. The settlement is for 10 years or 100,000 miles whichever is first. So, with that said Audi tells me I am not eligible for a replacement transmission or cost credit. I was not informed of the Class Action Suit when purchasing the car, what are my options? I live in Indiana and purchased the car in Kentucky.

  4. I traded in my car for a 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee in Durango, CO. The vehicle had around 144,000 miles on it. However, as soon as I drove it out of the dealership the check engine light started flashing and I noticed that it had a very hard time switching into 3rd and 4th gear. It would jump really bad. I thought this was just because the vehicle hadn’t been driven in a while and I was trying to force it up hill. So I let it go the speed it wanted, about 20 mph under the speed limit, and it seemed fine. It would still occasionally flash, though.

    When driving down hill the next day I noticed that the brakes were rattling very, very badly. When I took it in to to a dealership they said I needed new brake pads and rotors. I didn’t think it would be that much to fix, but in the middle of the replacement the mechanics told me the brake fluid needed to be flushed and the tie rods needed to be replaced. The total cost of this work cost $900.

    A few months later my car started to overheat. This happened twice before I took it into a shop and found out the radiator fan wasn’t working. Also, apparently many of the caps under the hood were broken causing fluid to leak. This cost an additional $400 to fix.

    Now, only a few weeks later, my car’s check engine light has come on again. This time it has stayed on. I don’t know why it could be doing this, but I’m very nervous to take it into a shop again and find out that it may be unsalvageable.

    Along with all of that the car shakes very, very badly when it’s idling (at stop light, etc.), and makes weird rattling sounds on the right side of the car. These are all things that existed when I first got the vehicle, but didn’t realize until I started taking it longer distances and at faster speeds.

    I feel incredibly gyped, but had never heard about lemon laws. I always thought this was just something I had to deal with since I signed papers for buying a used car. However, now I definitely feel swindled. Nothing against the salesmen, but I feel that the dealership should have known in some capacity that this vehicle had all of these issues! When I asked the salesmen if there was anything wrong with the vehicle they gave an enthusiastic, “no!” I know they probably genuinely thought this, but I think they should’ve taken the time to check if they didn’t really know anything about the vehicle. I feel absolutely sick about this situation and have no idea which direction to go in.

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